Discussed Facebook news ban With PM Modi, says Australian PM Morrison

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmer

"In fact, and as we have made clear to the Australian Government for many months, the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favour of the publishers - which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume", he said, arguing past year the platform generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated $407 million.

"These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behavior of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them".

"We are working to see which model would be the most appropriate", Guilbeault said, adding he spoke last week to his French, Australian, German and Finnish counterparts about working together on ensuring fair compensation for web content.

The dispute centres on a planned Australian law that would require Facebook and Alphabet Inc's Google to reach deals to pay news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or agree on a price through arbitration.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg remains determined to convince Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to accept the Australian government's media bargaining code.

Mr Morrison said Australia was also standing its ground. It said its commitment to combat misinformation had not changed, and it would restore pages that had been taken down by mistake.

"As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted", a company spokesman said. Similarly, traffic to the Australian news sites from Facebook alone plummeted from around 21% to about 2% within Australia, and from around 30% to about 4% outside the country.

"But at Facebook nobody ever loses their jobs", Scheeler, who left the company in 2017, told The Australian.

"I don't think they are being a good citizen, not just in Australia, but elsewhere [too]". "So, we're all behind Australia in my view".

With parliamentary votes looming, Prime Minister Morrison revealed that Microsoft Corp CEO Satya Nadella had offered its search engine Bing if Google's disappeared.

University of Toronto professor Megan Boler, who specializes in social media, said the Facebook action marked a turning point which would require a common global approach.

Google announced its plans to license news previous year and revealed a new product called News Showcase in which publishers can curate and decide for themselves how to present their content on the platform.

Facebook shares traded down 1.1 per cent in premarket dealings on Thursday.

Facebook argues its response shouldn't be compared with that of Google as both platforms are fundamentally different in how they interact with news and publishers.

"If it is not already clear, Facebook is not compatible with democracy", Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who heads a House subcommittee that has urged antitrust action against the company, wrote on Twitter.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. announced a wide-ranging deal with Google on Wednesday.

He singled out blocks on access to certain government sites related to the coronavirus pandemic, emergency services, weather reports and other issues as "completely unrelated" to the media code.

The move, which also erased several state government and emergency department accounts, as well as nonprofit charity sites, caused outrage. Some were later restored.

"The actions we're taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and worldwide news content", a company spokesman said.

However, it appears that Facebook is not willing to pay for news.

If the tech giant was hoping to kick off a wider debate about the merits of Australia's (controversial) plan to make tech pay for news (including in its current guise, for links to news - not just snippets of content, as under the EU's recent copyright reform expansion of neighbouring rights for news) - Facebook has certainly succeeded in grabbing global eyeballs by blocking regional access to vast swathes of useful, factual information.



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